The book

Our “hero on a bicycle”, Paolo Crivelli, is living with his English mother and elder sister, Constanza, in a house in the hills outside the city of Florence in the region of Tuscany, Italy. It is the summer of 1944 and Florence is in Nazi German hands. Paolo and Constanza’s father, Franco, a staunch anti-Fascist, is in hiding. None of the family knows where he is, but each secretly suspects that he is with the Partisans, a group of men and women who are fighting for freedom in Italy.

Hero on a Bicycle begins with one of Paolo’s secret midnight bicycle rides into Florence. This was a dangerous activity for a young boy because of the nightly curfews, which were heavily enforced by the German occupying forces at various checkpoints around the city. Anyone found breaking the curfew would be dealt with severely. On his way home, Paolo is caught by a group of Partisans who want him to carry an important, and urgent, message to his mother…

This book is inspired by a family the author, Shirley Hughes, got to know on her very first trip to Florence. The children, like Paolo and Constanza, had an English mother who was persuaded by the Partisans to help escaping Allied prisoners of war. It was a very risky undertaking ‒ as Paolo and Constanza will find out…

 




Cover artwork © 2012 Michael Crampton. Website text © 2012 Shirley Hughes and Walker Books. All rights reserved.
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